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Quick Answer:

What Happens If Your Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers?

For a low-cost divorce, both parties must sign no matter how long they have been apart, but do not give up hope just because your spouse will not sign. Begin the divorce without your spouse’s signature, and have the paperwork ready for when they’re ready to sign.

For a divorce to be low cost, everything about it must be simple and involve very little work for the lawyer. That can only be the case if both parties are and remain available and fully cooperative and both give written consent to the divorce, no matter how the parties have been separated. Period.

Let’s assume that simplicity and expense are not important and just talk about the letter of the law….and then its practical application. If the couple separated before December 5, 2016, and have not been apart for two years (or if they separated after December 4, 2016, and have not been separated over one year), under our law, a no-fault divorce simply is not possible as the written consent of both parties, 90 days after the divorce is filed and served upon the other party, is absolutely required, no matter who your lawyer may be or how much you spend on your divorce.

If a couple is separated the required one or two years, depending upon when the separation began as explained above, a no-fault divorce is possible without the other party signing, but under very limited circumstances.

First of all, you must hire a local lawyer and file in your (or your spouse’s) county. This will take the lawyer’s fees and court filing fees into the thousands – not hundreds – of dollars, but just spending big does not guarantee your divorce. After the divorce is filed and your spouse served the papers, your lawyer must send two documents to your spouse. One says your spouse has 20 days to contest and the other – and remember this document’s name: a Counter-Affidavit – is a document your spouse can simply mail to the court to contest your divorce. Yes, YOUR lawyer must give your spouse the document your spouse can file to contest the divorce! Only if your spouse does not file that document (and all that is needed is an envelope and a stamp, not a lawyer, not any money) would your divorce be granted without your spouse signing. If that document is filed, there must be court hearings and that means thousands – three to six or more – to have those hearings with no guarantee of success.

Another divorce type possible without your spouse’s signature is a fault divorce, the only type we had for the 200 years before our no-fault law of 1980. Even uncontested fault divorces are expensive from the get-go as a hearing, with your lawyer in court, is required. Think $2000 to $3000 if your spouse does not show up at the hearing. If your spouse does show up, and your spouse need not have a lawyer, and tells the court that the divorce is contested, your lawyer will close the file folder and tell you $7500 to $10,000 or more with be needed for a contested divorce hearing with witnesses and court testimony…and, of course, no guarantee of success. Naturally, if your spouse does not contest at the hearing, your $2000 to $3000 investment will get you a divorce.

The long and short of this all is that there are no automatic divorces and your spouse can make any divorce expensive with virtually no trouble or expense. Your spouse does not need a reason to contest. Contests are often filed just to be mean or to attempt to exert control over the other spouse’s life. Frequently, for the average person, this means filing a low-cost, simple, no-fault divorce and waiting until your spouse finally decides to sign and move on.

If you have things to settle I can help you. I urge you to call me, Monday through Friday, noon to 3 PM, toll-free at 1-800-486-4070, BEFORE you begin your case, for an absolutely free consultation about your particular situation. Alternatively, you can read our free information guide which answers many questions you may have before your divorce.